NASHVILLE, TN. - For the first time, we now know just how many people are impacted by Governor Bill Lee's decision to end federal unemployment benefits.
That number is over 109,000 people.
News4 Investigates confirmed with the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development that that 109,900 Tennesseans will lose benefits when the federal pandemic unemployment programs end.
Currently there are 61,000 pending claims for all unemployment programs, including state.
Tuesday, Governor Lee announced four pandemic unemployment programs are set to end July 3rd.
Gov. Bill Lee announced the end of all federally funded pandemic unemployment compensation programs in Tennessee, effective July 3.
Governor Lee says he's ending the programs because Tennesseans have access to more than 250,000 jobs in the state.
Governor Lee also added that families, businesses, and our economy thrive when we focus on meaningful employment and move on from short-term, federal fixes.
But for people who rely on federal programs for medical reasons, they believe Governor Lee is missing the mark.
Lebanon resident Valarie Dalton is outraged after hearing Governor Lee’s announcement.
“When something like this happens, I’m like what in the world! I mean, what kind of idiot just looks at it, like Black and White!” Dalton said.
“We’ve analyzed the data and we think that this is the right move for the state,” Governor Bill Lee stated Tuesday.
Dalton is battling her second fight with cancer. The doctor told her she can’t go back to work. Only after News4 Investigates inquired about her claim did she get her issue straightened out.
“There’s some people that don’t have a support system and this is all they have,” Dalton said. “
Federal pandemic unemployment programs set to end on July 3 include the following:
• Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC), which provides for an additional $300 weekly payment to recipients of unemployment compensation
• Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), which provides benefits for those who would not usually qualify, such as the self-employed, gig workers and part-time workers
• Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), which provides for an extension of benefits once regular benefits have been exhausted
• Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation (MEUC), which provides an additional $100 benefit to certain people with mixed earnings
Unemployment claimants in Tennessee have been required to complete three weekly job searches in order to remain eligible for benefits since Oct. 4, 2020.
Any weeks filed before July 3 that are eligible under federal program requirements will continue to be processed.
Governor Bill Lee’s letter to the U.S. Department of Labor can be seen here.
“What’s important to remember is we have a quarter million jobs in this state that are unfilled. And we want to make the pathway for those who are unemployed to those employment opportunities as smooth as possible,” Governor Lee said.
Donna Brown knows exactly how Dalton feels. She contacted News 4 after watching Dalton’s story.
“When that….came on...I said OHHHHHH I'm not by myself,” Brown said.
Brown’s had a rough year. She battled Stage One breast cancer. Now in recovery, she’s got to be cautious.
“I cannot go back to work! In fact, I’m a caregiver and I do lifting! Bathing! I can’t do that right now. In fact, I’m wearing a sleeve right now, where I can’t even move my arm that much. So, it’s not fair that we’re not getting unemployment,” Brown said.
Just like Dalton, the system kept asking Brown to do three job searches when she said she already had a job, leaving Brown to get denied.
“I said y’all this is not right at all!” Brown said.
"Particular issues that allow for the federal program, may not be allowed for in the state program. and in that case, they will not be eligible for the state benefit," Governor Lee said.
Which means medical exemptions for unemployment benefits will end in July. The Department of Labor added that those who believe they cannot work for medical reasons may apply for social security disability benefits.
"Well, I don’t want to go for permanent disability. I don’t want to. I want to be able to go back to work one day. And if you put me on disability my chances of going back to work when the pandemic ends...are slim to none," Dalton said.
For Dalton and brown, these two women, fighting to say alive, say they're now left feeling like the state they love so much, isn't fighting for them.“Governor Lee, we need help, the medical people that’s under the medical situation with cancer --with any kind of medical...please help us…we need your help today," Brown said.
As for Ms. Brown's situation, the Department of Labor tells News4 that she is not eligible for unemployment benefits because the separation from her former employer was due to a medical issue. They added that she has the option to try filing a late appeal.